Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that from 2018 all new Head Teachers will require to have passed a Masters’ Qualification in Headship is an interesting move. She insists that having ‘the best qualified’ people in charge will help to ensure standards in our schools are boosted. It is a common sense argument that by giving people appropriate training in leadership that their ability in a leadership role would be improved. However, this move will unfortunately deter a good number of very able people from coming forward – the thought of 18 months of Masters’ level training (whilst continuing the day job) will lead only the most ambitious and driven individuals to engage. The danger is that the already precarious position of Headship becomes even more unappealing.
What Scottish Education really needs is to be left alone, probably for a minimum of 10 years. Schools have become obsessed by qualifications and attainment levels and despite the well-intentioned Curriculum for Excellence’s introduction, schools have become miserable places in which to study. Students in S4, for example, are coping with a huge increase in testing and assessment, and yet CfE was meant to ensure that the curriculum was not being driven by ‘teaching to the test’.
In those countries where politicians and outside agencies keep their noses out of the education system, schools and their students appear to do considerably better. Politicians seem to think that a good education is conveyed merely by a set of high qualifications but that is not borne out by the facts. Excellent school leaver qualifications should not be viewed as the end product of a good education, they should be viewed as the by-product of a good education. By focusing merely on driving up attainment levels everything else is in danger of being lost – vocational training, love of learning, independent thinking, critical and analytical skills, sport, music, drama…..
I am in no doubt that the First Minister’s initiative is very well-intentioned but I do fear it would be destined to fail because we are looking at the wrong model of education. We should be learning from those countries which are succeeding by looking at education as a whole, rather than focusing on one very narrow set of performance indicators. Scotland actually has an excellent leadership record – however, Head Teachers are not really allowed to ‘lead’ – they are judged constantly by external agencies that have little clue as to how schools actually operate. What the current crop of Head Teachers actually need is to be left COMPLETELY alone to get on with the work they know requires to be done.